Saturday, October 18, 2014

Becoming a Football Player

Micah:  "I think I'll go to college and get a football degree."
Me:  "Well, they don't really have degrees in football."
Micah:  "Oh.  How do you get into college anyway?"
Me:  "Well, your grades from high school will go on a transcript.  You'll take a test or two--they're called the ACT and SAT.  We'll put the extra things you do in high school on the transcript, and you'll probably write an essay.  Then we'll send it to colleges and they'll decide if you're a good fit for their school."
Micah:  "That sounds like a lot of work.  I think I'll just be an undrafted NFL player."
(short pause)
Micah:  "No, I think I'll be a librarian.  Then I can check out all the books on football."

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Review: Fortuigence

We were recently given the opportunity to review an online writing course from Fortuigence.
I jumped at the chance, and chose the Essay Rock Star Expository Essay Writing Course.

Fortuigence is a company founded by Ms. Lily Iatridis (or Ms. I, as she is known to her students).  She has over 10 years of teaching in a classroom, but chose to take some time off to start a family.  By starting Fortuigence, she is able to tutor students in writing while having the flexibility to spend time with her own family.

There are four courses available from Fortuigence:
These courses are geared at students ages 12-18, and are priced individually at $57 (or you can purchase a bundle of all four for $197).  Each course is worth 0.125 high school credit, which means all four courses would be equal to 0.5 high school credit.  These courses are self-paced, so your student can take as much time as they need to master the material.
The Expository Essay Course has seven lessons:
  1. Introductions, rubric, pre-assessment
  2. Purpose and Description, Brainstorming
  3. Organizing Ideas
  4. Free Writing
  5. Revision
  6. Editing
  7. Wrap Up
Each lesson has video of the concept being taught, along with a written lesson for the student to read.  Embedded in the written lesson are links to helpful resources--for example, the lesson on editing has a link to a page with a list of sentence transitions.  Once the student completes the lesson, it is time to do the assignment.  The student completes the writing assignment and sends it to Ms. I, and she provides feedback via email.  Sometimes she gives an immediate go-ahead for the student to move along to the next lesson, and other times she has the student work more on that particular lesson. 

I chose to sign Ezekiel up for the Expository Essay course.  I'll be honest and say I had no idea what to expect.  He's a reluctant writer (actually, reluctant is probably an understatement).  He has a lot of great ideas, but resists getting them out of his head and onto paper.  I figured Ms. I would have her work cut out for her with him, but I was also curious to see how an outside writing teacher would handle him.  I figured he would be a good challenge for Ms. I :).

Shortly after we signed up, life kind of exploded.  There were extra doctor appointments and testing to figure out the cause of Ezekiel's back pain (bulging disks), and the youngest got orders to start physical therapy for knee pain.  All of our activities started, which meant I was on the road a lot, and my workload at work increased.  I was concerned about falling behind with this course, but because this course is self-paced that did not happen.  This also meant that the extent of my involvement became "Ezekiel, are you working on your essay course?".
Getting him going was rough.  The student has to provide a writing sample so Ms. I can see what the starting point is for that particular student.  I didn't have a writing sample available, so he had to write something new.  Once he did this, though, he was no longer resistant.  Ms. I's feedback was encouraging, and I think that alleviated a lot of his nerves.

But, here's the biggest shocker:  He's enjoying the course.  He was very excited to be able to write about gymnastics.  He has not been rushing through; he's been taking his time and trying to do what Ms. I asks of him.  The feedback he has received for each step has been direct and encouraging and extremely helpful.  When he's gotten stuck, he has emailed Ms. I with questions, asking for additional clarification.  She is forcing him to think through what he is writing so that everything is relevant and concise with no extraneous information.  Feedback has been received within 24 hours, which has been very impressive to me and has kept Ezekiel moving along.  He is still in the revising stage, and I look forward to reading his final essay.

If you are looking for a personal writing teacher for your child, give Ms. I at Fortuigence a chance.  I am so impressed with what she has done with Ezekiel's writing--I hope to sign Luke and Jacob up as well.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Clue #1

The first clue you might not make as much progress as you'd hoped with grammar today:

"Thinking is my arch nemesis." --Nicholas

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Fix It! Grammar

Institute for Excellence in Writing is best known for their writing curriculum, but that is not all they publish.  They also have a grammar curriculum, and it's been completely revised and updated.  We were sent the following books to review:

Fix It! Grammar is designed for grades 3 and up.  There are 6 books in the series:
  1. Fix It! Grammar:  The Nose Tree
  2. Fix It! Grammar:  Robin Hood
  3. Fix It! Grammar:  Frog Prince, or Just Deserts
  4. Fix It! Grammar:  Little Mermaid
  5. Fix It! Grammar:  Chanticleer
  6. Fix It! Grammar:  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The book your student would begin with would depend on their grammar knowledge.  IEW has a placement test to help you determine which book your student should begin with, and I'd recommend taking a look at the test just to verify where you think your student should start.

Fix It! Grammar is a unique grammar program because it teaches grammar concepts through real stories.  The stories use real sentences that contain real errors that your student might make in their own writing.  Through marking up the sentences and finding errors, the student learns grammar and correct usage, with the long view that this will transfer to the student's own writing.

As mentioned above, we received Fix It! Grammar Book 1:  The Nose Tree.  This book, like the others in the series, is designed to be used over the course of one year.  There are 33 weeks of lessons, and it should take about 15 minutes a day.  We received the Teacher's Manual and the Student Book.  They are both high quality, spiral bound books.  With the purchase of the Teacher's Manual, you also receive access to a PDF download of the Student Book so if you prefer to print your own Student Book, this is an option.
Each student should have a notebook.  If you have chosen to print your own Student Book, the notebook should have four sections:  Fix Its, Grammar Glossary, Rewrite, and Vocabulary.  If you purchase the Student Book, then the notebook would only have two sections:  Rewrite and Vocabulary.
On the first day of each week's work, you read through the section titled "Learn It" with your student (this section contains the teaching for the week).  There are grammar flash cards included in the Student Book, and your student should cut out any that are applicable to the day's lesson so they can review the concept.  Next,  you help your student mark up the first sentence in the reading.  Once the sentence is corrected, the student copies the corrected version into the Rewrite section of their notebook.  For Days 2-4, the student corrects the sentence for the day on their own, and copies the corrected version into their notebook.  At the end of the program, the student will have a clean, corrected version of the story.

Each day's reading also has a vocabulary word.  This word is in bold print, and the student is directed to look the word up in a dictionary, decide on the definition that best fits the sentence, and write a short definition in the vocabulary section of their notebook.
I used this with Luke & Ezekiel, and I started them in Book 1 to help them learn to recognize errors in writing.  I used the method described above, though I did not always read through day 1 with them and help them correct the first sentence.  Since they were already familiar with the grammar ideas, they did okay without my help, but this would not have worked if they were brand new to grammar.  I love that they are learning to find errors in real writing, since this can be difficult to teach using a traditional grammar program.  I loved that they were copying a real story as part of the program.  The vocabulary was the weakest part of the program, but I think this has to do with the fact Luke & Ezekiel are in 9th & 8th grades.  If I had chosen to use this with my 3rd grader, the minimum recommended age, I would definitely have had to spend time with him every day walking him through the sentences and he would have gotten more out of the vocabulary portion.

If you are looking for a non-traditional grammar program that will reinforce writing skills, definitely check out Fix It! Grammar.  Click on the banner below to read reviews of books 1-5.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Trucking Along

This is the slowest start we've ever had to a school year.  We still have 1 or 2 subjects to start, but overall it's going well.  The biggest issue is the driving.  I've gone from driving 50-75 miles/week, to driving around 300.  Some of these are longer drives, some are shorter.  But I feel like I'm constantly stopping what I'm doing to get a boy somewhere or pick a boy up.  It's not even that each boy has too many outside activities, it's just that they aren't all doing the same thing on the same day anymore. 

It's worth it, though.  The younger three are learning some fun stuff in their enrichment program, and to quote Luke "I'm in love with my engineering class".  Can't argue with that!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Under Drake's Flag

A handful of weeks ago, we were given the opportunity to review Under Drake's Flag, produced by Heirloom Audio Productions.  This 2 CD set with an abridged study guide sells for $29.95, and is most suitable for ages 6 through adult.  
We really enjoy listening to audio books here at Larson Boys Academy, especially when we're all in the van together.  Now that the boys are older, it seems that we're running in different directions quite often so we don't get to listen to as many as we used to.  However, this CD set arrived just before we left on a road trip to visit family so the timing was perfect for all 7 of us to listen to the story.
This is a 2 hour long audio theater production of G.A. Henty's story about Sir Francis Drake.  Since it is an audio theater production, it's more than just a narrator reading the story.  There is a full cast of talented actors performing the story, along with sound effects and a musical score that make the story come alive.  
Sir Francis Drake lived from 1540-1596.  He circumnavigated the globe for England, helped defeat the Spanish Armada when they invaded trying to capture England, and was made a knight by Queen Elizabeth.  More importantly, he was a strong Christian and his Christian values guided what he did. 

This story tells about Sir Francis Drake and his adventures through the experiences of Ned Hawkshaw.  During Ned's travels, he experiences battles, a shipwreck, and even a shark attack, and then he witnesses the Spanish Inquisition.
Included with the CDs is an abridged study guide.  This abridged guide is divided into 19 sections, and each section has three parts:  "Listening Well" (comprehension questions), "Thinking Further" (questions that require your child to use critical thought to think more deeply about the story), and "Defining Words" (words that your child might need to look up in order to understand a bit more about the story).  There are also 3 short Bible studies in the back of the guide.

There is also a full study guide available as a PDF download.  This full study guide has the same sections as the abridged version, but there are a more questions and words listed.  For example, in the first section, the abridged guide has 3 "Listening Well" questions, 3 "Thinking Further" questions, and 2 words under "Defining Words".  The full study guide has 8 "Listening Well" questions, 9 "Thinking Further" questions, and 6 words under "Defining Words".
This audio drama is very well done.  It was enjoyed by all 7 of us on our road trip.  The cast did a superb job, and the musical score and sound effects transported us into the story so we felt as if we were on the high seas ourselves, even though we were actually travelling through the midwest. 
Since we enjoyed Under Drake's Flag so much, I was excited to hear that Heirloom Audio Productions is currently working on a second title:  In Freedom's Cause.  This GA Henty book is about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and the projected release date is November. 
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Saturday, September 06, 2014

Thought From the 8 Year Old

Me:  "What are you thinking about?"
Nicholas:  "I know what I'm going to say if I ever lose a limb."
Me:  "What?"
Nicholas:  "'Tis a mere flesh wound."

Okay, then.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Good Point

"Mom, you've known me longer than anyone.  Even longer than I've known myself, because when I was born, I didn't know who I was.". --Micah

Saturday, August 23, 2014

We Haven't Even Started!

We've got a slow start going here, and yet the wisecrackery is already beginning.

I just happened to scan one of Ezekiel's assignments using literary devices.

I don't know the question, but his answer was:  "School is so boring, I died.  I cannot complete this assignment."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Sweet Bouquet

Jacob & Nicholas picked this for me last week.  Flowers from the backyard, lovingly tied up into a very sweet bouquet.